Woman-Centered Psychotherapy

"Women's and men's health and health needs are distinct both because of differences in their bodies and because of differences in how women and men live, work, and play, as well as how they were raised as children" (Canadian Women's Health Network).

Consistent with this conclusion, the Canadian Psychological Association has issued practice guidelines that psychologists ought to consider in order to provide competent and ethical psychological practice with women.

Such guidelines have given rise to a woman-centered approach to mental health care to ensure that the mental health provider is sensitive to, and knowledgeable about, the impact of each woman's biological, cultural, economic, and socialization experiences on her mental health and well-being, and are considered and integrated into an overall treatment program.

A truly woman-centered approach to therapy considers the complexities of the daily experience of being a woman in our society. Women are spouses, mothers, caregivers, and homemanagers, and when they work outside the home and have a career, they bear the brunt of work overload. Studies consistently show that women devote more hours per week than men to non-work activities, such as childcare and elder care, and are more likely to have primary responsibility for non-work tasks.

Results of a study produced for Health Canada Work-Life Conflict in the New Millennium , showed that job satisfaction and organizational commitment have been declining over time, while job stress and absenteeism increased.  Importantly, this study showed that women's level of stress, burnout, and depressed mood increased much more than men's over this time.

In order to benefit female clients most, the psychologist needs to understand that it is important not to label behaviors and emotions that a woman may be feeling as disorders , but to understand these as responses in the context of her life experience. It is within this context that scientifically-supported treatments, as delineated in treatment guidelines, are implemented when necessary.